What we do and why

Who we are, what we want to be, become, do, is a dialogue between all of us involved in the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective. Whoever is there in the space is shaping it. And because there are many of us, the stories of who we are and will be is always evolving.

Questions we engage include : What are we trying to accomplish with our participatory research? who is it for? What matters more, the integrity of the research or the effectiveness of the action? Are we transforming the academy by engaging new questions & reframing theory ? Or by opening up the educational pipeline ? The political pipeline? Or, are we transforming ourselves by building our capacity as scholars and activists? Or are we intervening and challenging xenophobia in a state that recently passed Arizona-like anti-immigrant legislation? And contributing to social movements (locally/nationally)?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes…

Some days we pay more attention to one question then another, depending on what’s happening in our collective and also what larger conversations we are contributing to. The conversation between all of us involved is what matters. Whoever is in the conversation is shaping it; whoever is there is making it happen. There is no one way, one theory fits all, or idea of change that we have embraced. Instead perhaps we begin with a commitment to just this, an ongoing collective conversation that embraces us all in this very moment with a radical acceptance.

Our starting point for doing collective/collaborative/ participatory research and action is taking seriously the participatoriness of our collective and the relationships we have with each other and to the work we are in together. At MAA community is strongly felt, strongly grasped, and intimate. People who might not ordinarily know each other or spend time together, come together in a truly intimate way in order to share a commitment to each other.

How we do what we do

The MAA Collective creates a space for the young people to identify concerns and investigate the contradictions of their everyday lives. Reflecting on one’s everyday life is a starting point for what the radical educator Paulo Freire (1970) called a “practice of freedom.” In this process, political understandings are developed through an analysis of personal everyday experiences. One of our objectives is to build the capacity of young people and all of us involved as leaders using a community-based participatory action research approach to investigate issues that are based on urgent concerns. In this process, young people frame the questions that we investigate, document and analyze conditions in our local areas, identify priority issues that affect young people, and develop and implement action plans to bring about change in our community through engaging the arts. The arts are both part of our research and outreach process.

Through culturally relevant methods of teaching and learning, we work together to foster an engaging space for young people to develop community-based leadership skills and create community-based research projects that address issues that matter to our communities. We seek to create a safe(r) environment for young people to discuss issues that are relevant to them and to address the issues that are impacting them, their families, friends and their communities on a daily basis (e.g. education, stereotypes, immigration, bullying, etc.). Drawing from critical theory, we collectively unpack issues impacting our communities and respond by creating artivist projects that address our communities’ concerns (e.g. through research, websites, documentaries, newspapers articles, murals, music, dance, etc.).


We have done many projects over the years including the following:

Dreaming of No Judgment : Mi Pleito Against Stereotypes
We Live Here: Mapping OUR community and challenging perceptions of the West Side
Labeled: Media Representations of Youth of Color
MAA Legislative Internship
Be Kind Project
Anti-Child Abuse Project
We Are Walking Art
MICA Sustainability Team
Gender & Beauty Expectations
Video: The Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective: Towards a Loving and Critical Consciousness

The Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective has been generously supported by many funders over the years. Our key partners include University Neighborhood Partners, University of Utah and the Honors College, University of Utah. We are most grateful to Martha Bradley and Rosemarie Hunter for their love, ongoing support, and commitment to our work. Thank you!!!